Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Justice LaSalle’s nomination for Chief Judge Credit: Screenshot

The hearing for Justice Hector LaSalle’s nomination for Chief Judge of New York State began this morning at New York State Capitol in Albany, NY on Jan 18. After several hours of questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lasalle lost the nomination.

Two Senators were in favor, ten opposed, and all others were without recommendation.

In his opening remarks, Chair Brad Hoylman set the tone for the hearings and spoke about the enormous weight the position of chief judge represents and the desire to move away from “prosecution” leaning candidates for the job.

Out of the more than 5,000 cases Lasalle has presided over, Hoylman pointed out 59 with criminal justice issues and at least 18 involving civil rights violations. He viewed Lasalle’s “alliance” with former chief judge Janet Difiore as reflective of conservative decision making. 

Lasalle’s opening remarks centered around stories of his background and ethnicity, being from a Puerto Rican working class family from Long Island. He said he is honored to have the opportunity to be a nominee. He is a staunch Democrat. But confirmed that he has run as a judge on the Working Families Party (WFP) in 2008 and Conservative party lines in 2008 and 2022.

Over a dozen senators and advocates have publicly slammed Lasalle for his judicial records, including cases in which they say he voted to allow discrimination based on skin color in jury selection, shield corporations from liability when they harm New Yorkers, and undermined victims of domestic violence when they seek justice, in addition to his anti-union, anti-due process, and anti-abortion decisions. 

During the hearing he took questions about these cases, disputing or explaining his reasoning, and spoke about what he envisions for the office should he be confirmed. He said repeatedly that he believes in applying the law equally to everyone regardless of background or ethnicity.

Lasalle had Senators who were adamant supporters as well as ones who were much more adversarial in their questioning. He said that he had reached out privately to every person on the committee and was always met with respect. “The private conversations I’ve had have not mirrored the public,” said Lasalle.

Senator Zellnor Myrie asked specifically why Lasalle voted to allow discrimination based on skin color in jury selection in cases like People v. Lorenzo Smith or People v. Joseph Bridgeforth, explaining that as a dark-skinned Latino himself, that it was a personal concern. 

The Bridgeforth case, a “dark-skinned” Black man challenged the striking of five “dark-skinned” Black, Guyanese, and Indian-American women as jurors in his trial based on discrimination. LaSalle joined an opinion refusing to find that skin color discrimination was prohibited by either the federal or state constitutions, which was unanimously overturned by The Court of Appeals.

Lasalle said that he applauded the decision but felt “constrained” in some cases where the rule was applied.

Senator Anthony Palumbo, a longtime friend of Lasalle’s for 25 years, said that his colleagues were “politicizing the nomination process” by “cherry picking decisions.” 

Senator Luis Sepúlveda said that Lasalle was being blatantly mischaracterized and that the proceedings were a “shameful” character assassination towards a Latino nominee. 

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting:

Join the Conversation


  1. What the Senate Committee did to Judge LaSalle is reminiscent of wild west justice. The progressives committee members agreed to give LaSallle a fair trial and then hang him. The Consitution requires the Senate (not a Senate Committee) to “pass upon”-to vote to confirm or reject-every appointee of the Governor to the Court of Appeals. The Senate cannot abrogate its Consitutional responsibility to a committee simply by passing a Senate procedural rule.The NYS Constitution trumps NYS Senate procedural rules.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *